New Vision (Kampala)

29 November 2012

Uganda Health Marketing Group

Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG), home of the good life, has joined with the Uganda Ministry of Health and every family in Uganda on this World AIDS Day (WAD) 2012 to promote elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

On 1 December 2012, together, UHMG joins hands with health workers, leaders, journalists, mother and fathers throughout Uganda to ensure that by 2015, no baby is born with HIV.

Without any intervention, about one third of HIV-positive mothers pass HIV to their newborn babies, resulting into more than 25,000 children born with HIV each year in Uganda. Many Ugandans are unaware that HIV-positive mothers can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy (15- 20%); during labor and delivery (60-70%); and after delivery through breast feeding (15-20%).

Even fewer know that the risk can be greatly reduced, if HIV-positive mothers take ARVs as recommended by MOH, deliver at health facilities with qualified assistants, and breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months (Uganda Aids Indicator Survey 2011).

This means that expecting mothers and fathers need to get tested for HIV. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that less than one half of HIV-positive men and women are aware that they have HIV, and so they cannot take ARVs when they are expecting and breastfeeding, and they cannot protect their babies from HIV.

Uganda is rolling out the virtual Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) programme to turn this situation around. The programme includes four essential practices for Ugandan couples to adopt:

• Prevention of HIV among women of reproductive age and their partners. This involves testing for HIV together with your partner and agreeing to remain faithful to one another or use condoms,

• Prevention of unplanned pregnancies among women living with HIV, by using modern family planning,

• Prevention of HIV transmission from women living with HIV to their infants, by enrolling in PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) services, taking ARVs as prescribed, delivering at health facilities, giving their newborn babies ARVs while breastfeeding, and

• Providing treatment, care, and support to mothers living with HIV, their partners and children so they can live long and productive lives.

Over the next year, the Ministry of Health, in partnership with UHMG and other organizations, and with support of USAID is rolling out a programme aimed at preventing mother to- child transmission of HIV. This new programme entails lifelong provision of ARVs to all HIV-positive pregnant mothers irrespective of their CD4 levels or disease stage, and provision of ARVs to exposed infants until 6 weeks of age.

This new programme has the potential to ensure that children are no longer born with HIV or acquire HIV during breast feeding. We can make Uganda a country where no child is born with HIV, if we all' do our part.

Couples who are expecting or in child bearing age need to get tested for HIV, share their test results with one another, and agree on how they will protect each other and their children from HIV.

HIV-positive men and women need to share with their sexual partners about their HIV status, and use condoms or abstain from sex all together. HIV negative uncircumcised men need to get circumcised to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.

Pregnant women need to go for antenatal care early during pregnancy and test for HIV as do their partners; if they test positive, they need to enroll in PMTCT services, and deliver at health facilities with qualified birth assistants.

And, all couples need to use modern family planning methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies. This is particularly true if they are HIV positive.

Finally, leaders at all levels, from national to village, need to educate their constituents about mother-to-child transmission of HIV and encourage their people to follow these simple instructions. Most importantly, leaders need to lead by example.

UHMG has pledged its support to this effort through the provision of educational information and helping to expand the availability of PMTCT services through its Good Life Clinics countrywide. Because UHMG is dedicated to helping Ugandan couples to live the good life.

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